Colorado considers medically assisted suicide
The Associated Press
DENVER — Last February, state Rep. Lois Court tearfully withdrew a bill to let terminally ill people end their own lives, conceding that it didn’t have enough votes to pass the Democrat-led House this election year.
But the Denver Democrat told her colleagues: “The voice of this state will be heard. You will hear from your constituents.”
Thousands of those constituents have put Proposition 106, which would create a nearly-identical law, before Colorado voters this election.
It would require that a mentally competent patient have a six-month prognosis and get two doctors to sign off on three requests for life-ending medication. It requires doctors to discuss alternatives with the patient. It calls for safe storage, tracking and disposal of lethal drugs, recognizing that a patient can change his or her mind.
It also requires the patient to take the drugs himself and have doctors report annually to the state about each case in which life-ending drugs are prescribed.
“This is patient-centered decision-making and a right Coloradans deserve to have,” Court said. She urged proponents to seek a statutory law rather than a constitutional amendment on the ballot so lawmakers could make any necessary adjustments.
Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California have passed medically-assisted-suicide laws. Montana’s state Supreme Court has ruled that doctors could use a patient’s request for life-ending medication as a defense against any criminal charges linked to the death. Polls suggest a majority of Coloradans support a similar law.
Guidelines for tracking lethal drug storage, use and disposal were added after lawmakers questioned the state’s ability to monitor those drugs, said Roland Halpern of Compassion and Choices. In Oregon, an estimated one-third of patients who requested life-ending drugs after that state’s law went into effect in 1997 never used them, he said.
Opponents argue that the proposal would facilitate doctor-assisted suicide, especially after mistaken terminal diagnoses. They insist that existing hospice and palliative care for the dying is sufficient. They worry about the influence family — wittingly or unwittingly — can have on patients’ decision-making, and the consequences for disabled patients suffering depression, among other issues.
Supporters have raised more than $5 million, most it from the Compassion and Choices Action Network. Opponents raised more than $2.3 million with contributions from Catholic archdioceses in Denver, St. Louis and Arlington, Virginia, as well as the Washington State Catholic Conference.
Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila wrote parishioners about his own mother outliving a near-term prognosis for cancer to argue that 106 will allow “people in situations like my mother’s to kill themselves based off of guesses made by doctors that are often wrong.”
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